Tuesday September 5, 2023 Minneapolis to Red Wing, Minnesota

Minnehaha and Hiawatha Sculpture
Beautiful Tree Lined Summit Avenue
St. Paul’s Cathedral
Intriguing Architecture
Cherry on a Spoon Sculpture
Blue Rooster Statue

This morning we departed our hotel for a five-hour bus tour of the Twin Cities of St. Paul and Minneapolis. Minneapolis, with a population of about 430,000 people, is the largest city in Minnesota. Called the “City of Lakes” because of its abundant water, including thirteen lakes, wetlands, creeks, waterfalls and the Mississippi River. Minneapolis was not only known for the flour milling industry that we learned about yesterday, but also for the lumber industry which was also prominent due to the white pine forests of Northern Minnesota. St. Paul is the capital of Minnesota with a population of around 300,000 inhabitants. It is known for its cold snowy winters and humid summers.

We discovered the rich history of Minnesota’s Twin Cities. From the comfort of the motor coach, we meandered our way through the downtown skyscrapers of Minneapolis and the historic Summit Avenue in St. Paul, filled with historic homes. The homes along Summit Avenue date back to the 1800’s and are mixed with churches and colleges. Our local guide introduced us to the vibrant culture, architecture, and history for which the cities are known. Minneapolis has torn down many of its older neighborhoods replacing them with newer construction while St. Paul has retained much of its original construction.

We drove by the Fort Snelling military post built between 1819 and 1825 and was renamed after Colonel Josiah Snelling who supervised its construction. It was originally named Fort St. Anthony. The fort served as the primary center for US government forces during the Dakota War of 1862. It served as a recruiting station during the Civil War, Spanish American War, and both World Wars before being decommissioned in 1946. The fort has a difficult history in that military officers at the time moved into the fort with enslaved people and the US Army officers were paid to hire servants but some used enslaved workers instead. The army allowed the practice and it was not exclusive to this fort.

We drove past St. Paul’s Cathedral, the Minnesota State Capital, and the new Guthrie Theater. We made a stop at Minnehaha Falls to watch the fresh water pour off the slick sheets of rock at the top of the cliffs, trickling into the small body of water located below. Due to the recent drought the creek is nearly dry. At the observation deck at the Guthrie Theater, known as the “Endless Bridge,” we got a view of the Mississippi River below. The view was very similar to the views that we had from the Mill City Museum a couple of days ago. We saw the Minneapolis Stone Arch Bridge and admired the beauty of the architectural link that contrasts the metallic structures of the urban city with the natural glimmer of the Mississippi waters. We watched as the Mississippi rapids flow towards Saint Anthony Falls downstream before visiting the restored Harriet Island Regional Park with its paddlewheel riverboats.

We stopped for lunch in St. Paul where folks had the chance to dine at an Italian restaurant and market, an Irish pub or a Mexican taco shop. We tried the new taco shop where the owner was very accommodating to tell us about his travels to Mexico during the pandemic and how he started the restaurant with different types of street tacos. It was very good.

After the tour of the Twin Cities we headed the one-hour drive to the town of Redwing where we would meet up with our home for the next two weeks, the American Queen’s American Countess river boat. Our cabin was an inside cabin with a very spacious bathroom with large shower. The cabin had a desk and chair, TV, Keurig coffee maker and more. The boat has traditional public spaces like a grand lobby with a bar, formal dining room, casual dining room, show lounge, card room, library, chart room and more.

Prior to dinner, we attended a short orientation about the following days activities. The entertainment was an introduction to the four-piece band, the cruise director and married assistant cruise directors, riverlorian and shore excursion manager. They all have to multitask as most of them provided entertainment via a song or two. The cruise director was one of Andre Lloyd Weber’s Starlight Express singers in London and performed for years in Las Vegas shows. He had an excellent voice.

We had late seating dinner at 7:45pm in the main dining room where there were only about fifty diners. We had only two table mates, a couple celebrating their 25th wedding anniversary, from New Mexico and moving to Oklahoma. Both of them were born not far from where Kent lived in Illinois. The eclectic American three course dinner was very nice. Offerings included a wilted greens salad, soup, ribs, chicken. fish, beef and more. For dessert they offered cheese cake, chocolate cake, flourless chocolate cake and ice cream.